A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Cartoon Showcase #1

Posted on October 30, 2003

Containing power fantasy parody vitally flavoured with a Whizzer & Chipsiness, this collection of one and two page strips is enjoyably diverting. The endearing brevity offers a series of padding-free scripts adequately cartooned, which succeed in telling neat, little stories that introduce absurd villains and prompt a smile or two on the way.

In one such story Paul McCartney has been replaced with an android, and female agent Diana St George must track down Damon Quint, the diabolical mastermind responsible. Conveniently enough, this villain also runs the small shop 'Quint Electronics' and St George soon has the culprit in her sights.

With a sugar-fuelled mania throughout, Martin Street's Cartoon Showcase #1 is solid entertainment for the offspring of comics fans and, with adult sustenance found elsewhere, for the small press enthusiast attentive to the demands of their inner child.

14 A4 pages, 50p - available from www.smallzone.co.uk